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|A Warm Night (VoA Drabble)|
The second drabble related to the Village of Anquan series.
The atmosphere was warm, both literally and figuratively. Deep reds, dark tones, and brilliant golds made up the entirety of the room. Starting at the floor, which was black marble, then the red-draped dining tables, seemingly shoved off to the side to make room for the main floor. On the floor itself, Noblemen and their wives from all about the Fire Nation wore red and black robes with gold trims, and similar themed accessories.
At the edge of the room, away from it all, sat Zhengqi. His blue eyes stuck to the ground in front of him. He nervously ran his hands back and forth across the sides of his formal garb. It was a brighter red than most others in the room, but without gold trim. It also featured more black segments. He sighed. He didn't want this. He didn't want any of it. But, Zhidao had insisted on him having him entertain other nobles in celebration of the end of the war. Ba Sing Se had only been "conquered" by Princess Azula one week before, but it had taken less than that amount of time to gather enough Nobles to organize a ball.
But that still wasn't the most pressing thing on his mind.
"Hello." He nearly yelped from the surprise. Zhengqi turned to see a girl about his age. He hadn't even heard her walk up. "You're the host, Zhengqi, right?" She had large golden eyes, like most people from the Fire Nation. Her own dress featured brighter reds, like Zhengqi, but she had kept the gold trim, and hers lacked any black tones. The dress itself was simple, yet elegant. The sleeves were short, and a long, red ribbon draped across both her shoulders.
The young Noble quickly regained his composure. "Yeah, I'm Zheng. Just Zheng, by the way, and I'm not really the host here. This wasn't my idea."
"Oh." The girl responded in an almost genuinely astonished voice. "Was it your father then?"
Zheng grinned. "No, but he likes to think so." He looked up for a second, taking in some memory or other to internally support this theory.
"I see." The girl seemed more interested in Zheng than what he actually had to say. "My name is Jin Si. It's nice to meet you Zheng." She held out her hand, letting her wrist hang slightly. "Would you care to dance?"
"Oh, um..." Zheng rubbed the back of his neck. He didn't know how to dance. Zhidao had offered numerous times to have someone teach him, but he had refused, claiming there was no way he'd need it yet. He regretted that decision now, more than anything. "I'm afraid I don't know how. Sorry..." He didn't know what else to say.
"Here." She said, taking his right hand. "I can show you."
Jin Si guided Zheng out to the center of the floor. She brought the hand up her left. "You put one hand here." She told him, as she grabbed his left wrist. "And then one hand there." She brought his left hand to her hip, before placing her own right on his shoulder. "And then..." She began slowly moving her feet about, and he knew enough to do the same. Eyes were cast in their direction as Jin Si gracefully guided Zheng, and he struggled to keep up.
It was both a dance, and a challenge at the same time. Zheng slowly began to catch up, and soon he was moving along with her, matching some of her movements, and complementing others. He was enjoying himself. For the first time in a week, Zheng was actually having fun, and not worrying. Not caring. Not mentally torturing himself.
And then he remembered.
The memory from one week before came flooding back into his mind, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He closed his eyes slowly. His feet kept moving, but Zheng was no longer there...
"There's something I need to tell you, Zhengqi." Zhidao's voice echoed throughout the small study. Zheng looked up from his mathematics scroll. There had been a smile on his face, but it had nothing to do with arithmetic. He had been grinning broadly ever since he'd heard the news that the war was over, earlier that day. Many people had.
"What is it Zhidao?" He asked. The smile was partially suppressed for now, but the excitement in his voice was still there.
"It's about your mother." Zheng's facial expression dissolved into confusion. "I think it's time you knew the truth." The confusion turned to shock.
His eyes opened, and he saw Jin Si looking at him. He heard people clapping. "The song is over. You were lying about not being able to dance, weren't you?" She smiled.
"You were great too..." He said as he let go of her hand. "I have to go." He turned and walked away, leaving Jin Si staring after him, puzzled.
The air outside was cooler. Zheng walked quickly to the balcony. He deeply inhaled the sweet, cool spring air. The view was breathtaking. The short mountains and cliffs below were covered in a fresh coat of green, and the rivers shined in the moonlight. But Zheng didn't notice.
He looked down, and closed his eyes, this time allowing the memory to come back to him...
"What?" Zheng was dumbstruck. "What are you talking about?"
Zhidao sighed. "Your mother...your mother didn't die the day your father did." Zheng's eyes widened in shock. He had always been told his father had died protecting her. "She was taken. Taken by the Earth Kingdom soldiers who had attacked. I knew she was alive, Zhengqi, and the last bits of information we had of her only confirmed this."
The boy didn't know what to say, or to think, or to feel. He was in shock.
"I'm sorry I lied before, but I only-"
"Get out..." Zheng said, staring at the desk before him.
Zhidao looked at the boy, little surprise in his eyes. "Zhengqi, I-"
"Out!" The torches in the study flared up brightly for a moment.
Zhidao bowed his head, and left without another word.
Zheng continued to stare blankly out into the night. How could he? The boy asked himself for at least the thousandth time. How could he just lie like that? For all these years... He'd always thought that there was no chance he'd meet his mother. That the only thing he would ever have left of her were a few pictures, and the memory of her voice.
Until Zhidao destroyed that with a few simple words. He didn't know which was worse: Thinking his mother was dead, and knowing he'd never meet her, or knowing that she's alive, and still knowing there was hardly a chance he'd ever see her again.
"Are you okay?"
He turned to see Jin Si standing at the door. It was already closed behind her. How does she do that? He thought as he turned his gaze back to the balcony. His suit began to billow in the wind slightly, as a gust of wind picked up. Jin Si grabbed her shoulders, but said nothing about the chill. "I'm fine." Zheng finally said.
"You don't look fine. And the way you just walked off the floor..." He voice trailed off. "Tell me, what's wrong? Was it me?" Zheng leaned against the railing before him, resting his arms across it.
"No, it wasn't you at all. There's just...something on my mind." He kept from looking at the girl, but she did the opposite.
"Please, tell me, what is it?" There was genuine concern in her bright, golden eyes.
He sat silently for a few moments. The breeze died down, and his suit's flowing came to a stop. He looked to Jin Si.
"No." He said bluntly. "It's personal. Too personal for anyone else. Thank you for caring though, it means a lot." He began to walk away, but Jin Si grabbed his arm. Zheng stopped, and turned to look her in the eyes.
"Zheng, I...I barely know you, but I can already tell, I like you a lot. You don't have to tell me about it if you don't want to, but I want to get to know you better." She kept her eyes focused rigidly on his. Her grip on his arm was tight.
He turned his body to face her fully. She was defiant, and he knew she would not be one to be brushed off so easily. "Okay." He said. He slowly brought his face close to hers, and she did the same, closing her eyes. His voice close to her ear was not what she had been expecting. "Goodnight."
She opened her eyes, and Zheng leaned away from her. "Thank you for the dance, Jin Si." He bowed, and without another word, walked away, back into the manor. Jin Si watched him walk away, before looking down at the ground.
For the collective works of the author, go here.